This tree is made from shells and it's small and fabulous. Photo by Nellu

I know that we’ve only gotten to Australia with this blog but the truth is we’re in New Zealand and we’ve been here for weeks. We’ve been working to catch up and actually be where this blog says we are. But it’s going to take just a little more time and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to put up a note on Christmas. See, I’ve been noticing a few things…

Wandering around downtown Nelson, New Zealand on the Sunday before Christmas many stores, including the town’s authorized Apple store, were closed. This would never happen in the States. Mostly because the holiday season is the when most of our retailers will do anything to make just one more sale, especially in a year when the words recession and unemployment dominate headlines.

We also went to the Christmas Tree Festival here. The church in the central square was filled with more than two dozen trees decorated by different community groups and businesses. On the way out, Nellu asked what I thought.

“I am a little disappointed,” I replied.

“What did you expect?” he asked.

“Bigger trees.”

A church filled with four-foot high trees is nice but one with trees that tower over your head is magical.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re enjoying spending Christmas in a land where palm trees sway. Nelson is known as the city with the most sun in New Zealand. And we’ve decided to park ourselves here for 11 days. (Who would have thought that all I want for Christmas is to stay in one place.) We have a small group of friends here including Kaitlin and Brian a couple from the U.S. who we met at our cooking class in Thailand. You can see more of their adventures at Two Backpacks One World. They’ve also introduced us to their circle of friends and we’ve enjoyed sitting by the light of their curious Doctor Seuss-like tree and listening to Christmas music.

Our friends' Doctor Seuss Tree. Photo by Two Backpacks One World. Click on the pic to see their Facebook page.

We plan to go swimming on Christmas Day. It’s Kaitlin’s idea because we never get the opportunity to do it at home. We’ve been more domestic than ever before making my family’s traditional Christmas Tree cookies and bringing the joy of egg nog to those who’ve never tasted it before. (We had to make it from scratch because you can’t find it in stores.)

But I’ve noticed something been missing – the constant bombardment of Christmas ads. It really didn’t register until I was watching videos online with U.S. commercials playing between breaks. They just don’t have the same level of Christmas hype here and it just doesn’t feel the same. Without Macy’s reminding me that I am in the final days of shopping, there’s no anticipation, no excitement build-up.

I never thought I would make this connection but it seems that Christmas commercialization does do a good job of drumming up Christmas cheer. Retail promotions, bigger trees, and more Christmas lights than our ancient electric grid can possibly handle have nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas, but they certainly shine a light in its general direction. Yes, that light might actually be a thousand bulb display highlighted by a six-foot tall, light-up plastic Santa. But even so, I think it just might keep the idea of Christmas alive and beating with anticipation in hearts around the world. That’s our modern-day Christmas miracle.

~ Molly

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